Board, community speak in favor of new buildings

by Laura Bednar

 April 25 board of education meeting

Nordonia Hills Board of Education members discussed a plan to construct three new school buildings, which was presented at the March meeting.

After holding meetings and collecting surveys from residents, a steering committee – made up of community members and led by consultant Cooperative Strategies – determined the most popular design. The consensus was to build three buildings, housing grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Board member Chad Lahrmer said there could be operational savings with fewer buildings to maintain, as there are currently six in the district.

Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark said there could be additional savings through staff reductions. “When you combine the elementary schools, you could save upwards of 10 teaching positions,’’ he said. “When you combine Lee Eaton and the middle school, you could save upwards of six teaching positions.’’

Said board President Liz McKinley, “We’ve crossed the two-thirds threshold when we look at renovating versus construction. We have a building with a sinking foundation,” adding that it’s difficult to keep up with building renovations to maintain 21st century learning.

“People recognize our buildings are old, people recognize that consolidating is a good thing and nobody wants to pay more in taxes,” said Clark. “The steering committee has put together a nice plan and I think the community will support it.”

Community member Becky Grell said, “An investment in schools is an investment in the community.”

Rising material costs and inflation were points of concern and board member Matt Kearney asked what the plan was if costs exceeded the budget during construction.

“We know budgets will be tight, but it’s part of our job to watch those dollars for you,” said Domenic Ferrante, chief operating officer at Sol Harris/Day Architecture, the company hired to create the building plan.

Lahrmer added that the steering committee had a contingency plan to construct two new buildings and renovate another instead of constructing three buildings.

Said community member Doug Masteller, “Costs aren’t going down. If we don’t do it now, when are we going to do it?”

Echoing his point was community member Michael Esposito. “It’s critical we take this step forward now,” he said.

Board member Jason Tidmore said the new buildings would be more energy efficient, resulting in additional cost savings. Ferrante said his company’s designs are 25% to 30% more efficient than the Ohio code requires.

Kearney asked what would happen to the old school buildings. Clark said the structures could be razed, or the district could look into land swaps or donations with the community.

“My hope would be we do anything in our power to not let [buildings] get into charter schools’ hands,” Clark said.

If board members decide to move forward with building construction, they need a bond levy on the November ballot.

“Every time your market value of your house changes, the school does not get more money,” Lahrmer said. “That’s going to be the same with this bond issuance.”

Treasurer Matt Brown said the board must let the Ohio Department of Education know a levy is being placed on the ballot 120 days before the Nov. 8 election. The board must also pass two separate resolutions by Aug. 2 in order to move forward.

The first declares the necessity of the bond issue, and the Summit County fiscal officer must estimate the average annual property tax levy required. The second would refer the bond issue to the voters, according to Brown.

Open forum

The board recently changed its open forum policy at meetings. A person must sign up to speak at open forum before meetings begin, either on the district’s website by clicking on the “Board” tab then the link in the right hand column, or in person at the meeting. ∞